The USC men’s golf team returns to action Wednesday, looking to build off of an impressive 2012 campaign. The squad will open the spring season with the three-day Big Island Invitational, played at Waikoloa Golf Course in Waikoloa, Hawaii.
The Trojans, who placed 15th at last year’s NCAA championships, come into the season ranked ninth nationally and with high hopes for the upcoming season. Junior All-American Jeffrey Kang anchors a USC team with a solid mix of youth and experience, and contributions are expected from an array of Trojans. The opening tournament, however, will not be an easy first test: Top collegiate golf programs from around the nation, including Pac-12 rivals No. 11 Stanford, No. 5 Washington and No. 4 UCLA, will be competing on the beautiful Hawaiian links.
The team’s immediate mission will be to stay sharp following a two-month hiatus. The break came after a fall preseason that, according to sophomore Anthony Paolucci, did not live up to the Trojans’ high expectations.
“We didn’t play well in the fall by our standards,” Paolucci said. “But I know all of us are capable of playing much better this spring.”
USC kicked off the fall with the Pac-12 preview hosted by Oregon State, finishing in third place. The conference is expected to be among the nation’s toughest. The Trojans then traveled to Georgia for the U.S. Collegiate Championships, where they again finished third. The squad capped off the fall schedule closer to home with the Gifford Collegiate Championships in San Martin, Calif., where they once again finished third. Expectations for the spring are higher.
“I’m really excited for this spring season,” Paolucci said. “We have a very strong team. I feel like we can make a good run at a national title this year.”
Such a run will be difficult in a loaded Pac-12 conference, which features a top-five squad in No. 3 Cal along with the dangerous Oregon Ducks. The Trojans also have a date with No. 1 Alabama and defending NCAA champion No. 2 Texas in March’s Southern Collegiate Masters. But even with the tough schedule, Paolucci is confident in the team’s chances.
“I know we all are ready to test our game against the best teams in the country,” Paolucci said.
The Trojans will be doing just that this week in Hawaii, where a strong finish could set the tone for the year.